VSCE # 2: a podcast about media entrepreneurs

    This is a program for those who are interested in IT business, new business models and everything related to project management, media and content production.

    In this issue: Maria Podlesnova - the founder of Rusbase - an online publication on technology. We discussed the company's history, workflows, insights, and the new Spinon project.

    Minute video teaser for this release on Facebook and IGTV

    dmitrykabanov : Usually, everyone starts an interview with questions about money, but we are interested in talking about the audience. Tell us how Rusbase started , which has now become rb.ru?

    What was your audience at the start? How did you develop? How did you manage to give the first impetus for this project?

    In fact, we remained Rusbase. We bought the rb.ru edition and live on their domain. We were sold the Russian Business edition, because we can keep what they were doing in parallel with us. Now it's still an Rusbase edition on the rb.ru domain.

    This August, we smoothly crossed the 1.5 million unique readers per month mark.

    We created the company in 2012, but the media launched only in April 2015. Initially, Rusbase started with the promise that we will do Russian Crunchbase or AngelList .

    The focus was on services and databases. News did not plan to pay much attention.

    The service was called Rusbase Partners Program - it was a base of investors and startups. We also had a calendar of events . We were sure that funds and start-ups would pay money for it, and they really paid the first years. Then there was the crisis of 2014, and all investment activity began to collapse. Therefore, the project investors offered to make media. Then Elina Kirillova worked for us.and two more girls: Masha and Kristina. And we launched the edition.

    When Rusbase had only services, we had 12 thousand visitors per month. At the beginning of the existence of the media in 2015 - 50 thousand people. By August 2016, there were 500 thousand users. We never bought traffic and did not make a separate advertisement.

    We just started preparing materials and attracting authors.

    At first in the publication we were engaged in rewriting, because in Russia there was not enough content. Then we started writing about Russian reality and doing interviews. An important step for us was the departure from the venture theme. It became clear that in Russia this is a narrow topic, about which 20 thousand people read. Therefore, it was necessary to write about technology and business.

    Today we focus on these topics. We don't care what you do. You may have a tent with shawarma or a car wash, but we can write about you. The only condition: the business must have a technological component. For example, analysis of customer data.

    We do not refuse to write about companies from the real sector of the economy, but we want to pay more attention to technology-based business. Our slogan: "We get off the oil needle." It is connected with the fact that we want to show and tell how to make money on technology.

    And this applies not only to the IT-sphere. Previously, our target audience was investors and startups. Today it is any person who is associated with technology or business in Russia.

    Can you tell me how you find content?

    Technically, the choice of topics looks like this. We have a dedicated employee who tracks technology and business search queries. At the beginning of the week he comes to the editor with a list of trends. We choose from this what is connected with technology.

    Let it be even Pokemon or cryptocurrency.

    There are topics that we develop ourselves, for example RecTech or SexTech. These are some new technology niches, about which very few people ask. Everyone can talk about IoT, but when you release a big longrid about this market in Russia, you will have 4-5 thousand readings.

    If you write about Pokemon or Tinkov, you will have completely different numbers.

    That is, in these articles you give links to deeper materials?

    Yes. This is a walk on the brink. You have to handle both what the audience wants now and what you want to focus on. We have “expensive” content. It is made by a person who creates three or four texts per month. These are big longrids for some complicated technological topics and stories. The audience does not want this, but such materials create a brand and a name for us. At the same time, you also need to write something simple and understandable to be read.

    How do you feel about the products and services that you talked about?

    I support these services. We have a Pipeline . Projects and investors are still added there, and it is still free. This is my big mistake, and we promise to introduce a fee for this for the second year in a row. Someday we will do it. Thousands of IT startups are being added to this database. Projects from the real sector also want to get into it, but we refuse them.

    Recording a podcast in coworking tceh - a photo tour of the location on Instagram

    The second large group of services are directories. We have a billboard of events , B2B-shop , Rusbase.EDU and Rusbase.CHANCE- also free services. For these sections, we manually collect useful information. For example, when they tell me that there is no money in Russia, I’ll send everyone to look under the heading CHANCE. In it, we collect all acceleration programs, hackathons, scouting, grant programs and internships.

    This is not some high-tech service, but an aggregation of the right content in the right place. Lives and base transactions. Again, no rocket science - every month we painstakingly collect links to all transactions. But when you enter this section, you have a wow effect, because you see all public transactions for more than 6 years. This is convenient because it is a simple sorting tool. For example, with his help you can find all the agreements in the field of food tech over the past five years. This is also good SEO traffic.

    A big topic is UGC content. Everyone wants to copy the model Habr, and vc.ru makes corporate blogs. Tell me how you look at UCG content and how interesting is it for you? Do you want to stand out by what you are doing an editorial product?

    UGC content is a cool story, but it’s a double-edged sword. This is a good tool because we have one person involved in all UGC content. Thanks to this editor, we interact with the authors and attract a writing audience. We work according to certain rules: you can place an author column without ads and links. On average, the editing and approval process takes three weeks.

    But there are also disadvantages. As I understand it, the first problem is related to our business theme, and it does not occur on Habré and vc.ru. In the author's content is difficult to verify all the facts, as we do in editorial materials. For example, the author reviews the opinions of ten experts and comes to us with this. But we are not able to verify all these facts and opinions. Because of these author columns, we have the most scandalous stories.

    There is a second difficulty. As soon as the author's column comes out, it gets on the social networks and all subscribers for some reason think that this is an advertisement. It is clear that the author of the material should have the name and the name of the company. But because of this, people often believe that these columns are paid for.

    In general, UGC content is a very good part of traffic and content for Rusbase. But we do not want to go completely to copyright materials.

    Another one of our podcasts - GLPH.Media - audio on iTunes , a web version and a text transcript for Habré

    I want to ask about platforms and formats. How can you estimate the share of mobile traffic? You now work more with text, but would you like to create audio and video?

    Mobile traffic is 60%. And I am sure that now everything needs to focus on the mobile first, especially in the content. Of course, on the web you can do a lot of beautiful things that are not always successful on the mobile. Moreover, publishers have to pay double the price for creating two versions of the site. But without a mobile platform, it's nowhere.

    I do not believe in audio format. Perhaps because I myself never listen to podcasts. I believe that at some point the text wins. The main thing - to place accents correctly.

    We very often make decryptions. For example, there was a very unusual story with the performance of Sergey Solonin. Video from a lecture at the MACS school hung a week on Sergey's Facebook, and no one watched it. And we made a transcript of the speech , and we got a huge infopovod for the entire market.

    I really believe in the video, and I would like to create my own production. For us, this is still expensive. Perhaps our own video production will be our next big step. This is an important image story, which I am ready to do around the clock, but there is no budget for it yet. Now we make all the videos with external production. And we are working with a graduate of Rusbase: the founder of video production used to be a UGC editor.

    How many people are in a team now and how do you view its development? Who is at the helm of Rusbase? Do you manage the editors or have you completely moved to a new project?

    Rusbase is divided into two parts. The first is the edition. His head is Sveta Zykova , editor-in-chief. Now, under Sveta, 12–14 people in the staff and a large number of external authors. Some employees work remotely: for a long time we had a news editor in Chile. The second part deals with services and makes events.

    Most often, someone leads his friends and acquaintances to work, so we maintain a great continuity. Even our chat is called Rusbase Family, and all people leave without conflict. The key factor in the selection of new employees is the desire to work in Rusbase. This is important because our project has a specific subject.

    From this it follows that most of the employees we grow inside. We find it difficult to find an employee from outside. Therefore, in the case of a choice between the old employee and the new one, we would prefer to send the “old man” to the courses and hold on to the new position.

    Tell me more about the events. How often do they go through?

    What do you spend and why?

    I'll start from the end: events are needed to bring us money. We have two models of monetization. The first is special projects and native advertising, and the second is events. Now we are doing two big flagship conferences a year. In the spring we have Fintech Russia, and in the fall - the Big Data Conference. I would like to do four events a year, but I still can not find suitable niches. We tried working with several topics: AdTech, CloudTech, LegalTech and InsurTech.

    Maria Podlesnova on Facebook

    The first problem is the presence of a solvent audience. At the events on fintech and data analysis, people are willing to buy tickets for 15-25 thousand, and I still do not see other similar topics in Russia. If earlier the budget for the event was formed from the sale of tickets and sponsors' money, now sponsorship is leaving. Therefore, the average ticket price has increased.

    The second is the amount of content.
    Companies at every corner say they have great cases in big data. You come and ask: how has the organization applied the new technology to its data? What is the uniqueness of the solution? What are the results? And nothing. As a result, it turns out that only 10–15 companies actually have something working, and they can tell about it.

    In addition to major events, we conduct speed dating. It's free. We do this to “walk” our audience of investors and startups. For example, in the spring we made a meeting on artificial intelligence technologies, and it was very cool. Investors came more than startups. Such events arise very spontaneously: we decide that it is time for us to gather all of us, choose a topic and meet. These are friendly evenings that we do not spend for money.

    Go to your new project. Is this a story that grew out of Rusbase services and acquired a more closed format aimed at investors?

    Not certainly in that way. The story has grown due to the fact that the market has a demand and HYIP for corporate innovation. It became clear that a large number of companies need technological products and access to start-ups. There are several requests from organizations.

    The first is that people just want to hire IT people. This is the easiest. The second is that the corporation genuinely wants to introduce or buy some kind of technology. In this case, the company most often wants to become a startup client and implement its solution in its process. The third story is merger deals and the launch of new pilots. It is difficult, hard.

    Very few Russian companies go to this.

    Spinon we do with Nastya Atkina. This is a company that works as a matchmaker for corporations and young teams. We have no advertising and no outbound sales. All client companies come on the recommendation of our other clients. There is no magic in it, we just do our job cool.

    It looks like this. Any company comes and asks to make it cool. We are given tasks, and we come up with a format. Most often, companies want to make hackathons, because it is fashionable. But they are not always needed, and in the last two times I even dissuaded companies from doing hackathons. This format of creating products does not shoot. In my experience, there is not a single case when the solution created on the hackathon grew into a startup, company or pilot.

    Most often we use public scouting and solve the problem of general PR. If the company is engaged in innovative technologies, it needs to be visible in this market. Therefore, Spinon buys ads on Rusbase, Habré, vc.ru and other sites.

    New project - Spinon
    We act as an agency that places the right information in the right places. We own a huge community of technology entrepreneurs with different stacks. Therefore, we use not only banner ads, but also personal invitations, as well as manual search.

    This skill came at the expense of working in the technology industry, but it is an absolutely separate business that Rusbase supports financially.

    Does the Russian process of scouting have its own specifics or does it reproduce the mechanics that exist in the West?

    I can not say for sure, because I have never worked with the West and the English-speaking audience. But it seems to me that we have our own specifics. There are two important factors. On the one hand, startups say that corporations want to cheat and steal them. This is partly the case: it’s normal when a big one eats up a small one. Just read the agreement carefully.

    On the other hand, startups often cannot deploy their model on large corporation capacities. It turns out that there is a corporation and there is money, but you are choking and you can not scale. Therefore, there are so few start-ups of cool pilots.

    For four years we have hardly seen such cases. The only kind of suitable case is scouting for Alpha Bank using text recognition systems, audio and video, which was in 2015. But Alfa-Bank launched such a decision only at the beginning of 2018. We contacted the founder, and at first he did not remember that the company had met the bank with us.

    The startup process always takes too long and too hard. During this time, people who were responsible for this project may leave corporations. We do not have a built process of building the interaction of startups and large companies, but we are trying to do it.

    Now we are working on a project with QIWI, and I hope that we will succeed. Although there we rested on the human factor. Perhaps you just need to try and learn more, because the "magic pill" does not exist.

    Release Notes:

    What happens behind the scenes of the VSCE project:

    • Our summer video blog [ FB ] [ IGTV ]
    • Part two [ FB ] [ IGTV ]

    Additional materials on content marketing in our microformat:

    Podcast: "When you are the chief editor of Rusbase" The Game of Archetypes: How Works for Tech Brands Works Why Companies Need an English-Language Habré Blog

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